Newcastle Light Rail, Australia


Newcastle Light Rail, Australia

Building the backbone of Newcastle using light rail

The 2.7km alignment connects Newcastle Interchange with Newcastle Beach, and is the first in Australasia to be “catenary-free” – without the overhead wires that many light rail systems employ for traction power along the entire route.

Aurecon with joint venture partner WSP, and urban design and architectural sub-consultants Cox and Context, were supported by Transport for New South Wales and Downer EDI to deliver the light rail system, which forms a key part of the NSW Government’s Revitalising Newcastle program.

Since 2014, Aurecon has been involved in all stages of this transformational project, including:

  • truncating the heavy rail services east of the former Wickham Station on the Newcastle branch line
  • design and construction of the Newcastle Interchange west of Stewart Avenue, Wickham
  • feasibility, concept design, detailed design, and support of the construction of the light rail system, incorporating six new stops, 16 at-grade signalised intersections, a new depot and stabling facility, and priority road works

The team drew upon a pragmatic risk management approach and embraced extensive community consultation to manage the project's significant disruption on the regional city. As a result, major construction shutdowns were managed through a relatively short period, and the project was delivered on time and to budget.

Aurecon was responsible for delivering comprehensive design, engineering and management services, including:

  • alignment optioneering
  • scoping, definition, concept, and reference design
  • detailed design for all engineering disciplines
  • digital models and stakeholder engagement
  • procurement, project management, and construction support

“Wireless” light rail a reality

The Newcastle Light Rail system utilises a catenary-free operation, where each light rail vehicle houses an onboard energy storage system. A super capacitor and batteries on the roof of the vehicle enables it to travel wire free. Charging is completed through the vehicle’s pantograph making contact with an elevated charge bar at each of the passenger stops.

The wireless operation declutters the urban environment and actively aligns with the NSW Government’s vision for the city.

A new heart for Newcastle

Each light rail vehicle can transport the equivalent of four full buses of passengers, with the system having the capacity to carry 1200 people per hour. The network follows the old rail corridor for approximately one-third of the route, before moving onto Hunter and Scott streets in the Newcastle CBD.

The six stops allow residents and visitors to more easily access Newcastle Beach, public spaces and city precincts linked to the harbour, encouraging greater economic growth and urban renewal.

The opening of a wire-free and sustainable public transport option in Newcastle lays the foundation for an expanded light rail network in the Hunter region, and for a continued renaissance of light rail in Australia.

The project was recognised by Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) – NSW awards in the Regional Project category in 2019 and has received an honourable mention from the 2020 RTSA Railway Project Award.

Newcastle Light Rail is also the first light rail project in Australasia to achieve an ‘Excellent’ IS rating for both Design and As Built from the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia.

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